More tributes have come the way of a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Dr. Festus Iyayi.
Among those who poured tributes on Iyayi on Wednesday were the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission and a former Chairman of the University of Nigeria Nigeria Nsukka chapter of ASUU, Prof. Maurice Iwu; a former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Bukola Saraki; and a former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu.
Iyayi died on Wednesday in an auto crash in Lokoja, Kogi State while on his way to Kano for the National Executive Committee meeting of ASUU, which was to resolve the union’s face-off with the Federal Government.
The NEC meeting was called off on Wednesday by the President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Fagge.
In his tribute to Iyayi, Iwu said: “The news of the sudden death of Professor Festus Iyayi came to me as a big shock. Mortals are, of course, bound to die someday, but not the way and manner they die in our society so often. The death of Festus in a ghastly road accident in Kogi is a huge loss to Nigeria and the civilized world.
“Festus was a cherished colleague and friend both in the academia and the Academic Staff Union of Universities. I testify to his doggedness and unwavering commitment to the struggle for better condition of service for workers. He lived a principled life all through.
“I put on record also appreciation for his contributions in the efforts to enhance Nigeria’s electoral process. During my tenure as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Iyayi lent sustained support to the efforts to tackle the problems of the electoral system. He particularly worked assiduously on what to do to change the mindset of Nigerian politicians towards elections. Professor Iyayi was someone with no streak of guile or treachery in him. It is indeed a summary of his life that he died in the service of the nation. May his soul rest in peace.”
Saraki, on Wednesday, said that the time has come for the leadership and membership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities to end the over four months strike that has led to the disruption of acadmic activities.
Saraki said the union should consider calling off the strike in his memory.
Saraki, a former Governor of Kwara State, told the union: “While there can be justifiable reasons to sustain the strike, the death of Iyayi has, obviously, changed the tune of the music.
“In his honour, even if all the terms and conditions for reopening our ivory towers have not been met by the government, you should consider the reopening of the universities.”
And to the Federal Government, Saraki, in the statement signed by his Media Office, said: “Education should not be toyed with by any government that is intent on developing the country.
“This is more so for a government that has proclaimed its desire to move the country from the label of a developing one to a developed nation.
“There is no sacrifice that is too much to be made in the bid to develop the country.
“All that is required to ensure that this our country with limitless potentials achieves the height of greatness is by being prudent in allocation and spending of our resources and commonwealth.
“The demands by ASUU are not out of place.
“It is for the good of the nation.”
Kalu expressed sadness over the death of Iyayi.
Kalu said Iyayi would be missed by not just the academic community but all Nigerians, many of whose lives he had impacted on positively both as a unionist and an intellectual.
In a statement on Wednesday by his Special Adviser, Oyekunle Oyewumi, Kalu described Iyayi as one of the few upright Nigerians that lived in the last decade.
He said Iyayi never failed to speak the truth to the powers that be, especially when he was at the helm of affairs of ASUU.
He commiserated with the Iyayi family; the President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Fagge; the leadership and members of ASUU; the University of Benin community; the Edo State Government; the labour family; and all Nigerians over the death of Iyayi.
Kalu equally prayed for the repose of his soul and quick recovery for those injured in the accident that claimed Iyayi’s life.